On the same day as Governor Polis announced his #EveryKidEveryDay initiative, a call on Colorado families to enroll their students in school (either online or in person), Stand for Children Colorado and Colorado Youth for A Change hosted four educators in a discussion with over 40 participants about how their districts are rethinking attendance and supporting participation and engagement this school year.
The expert panelists included Jolee Mann, a Dropout Prevention Specialist in the Student Engagement Office at Jeffco Public Schools, Anthony Asmus, the Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools in Greeley, James Humphrey, the Director of Operations at Rocky Mountain Prep charter network, and Desiree Quintanilla, an Intervention Services Coordinator with 27J Schools.
Panelists shared how their teams and districts are approaching attendance differently this year. James Humphrey, from Rocky Mountain Prep, said they are “reframing the idea of what attendance is and what it isn’t. It is all about whether the scholar is engaged and has an authentic connection to the school.” He said that it all starts with building trust between families and teachers. Other panelists echoed the importance of relationships in order to support student engagement. Anthony Asmus, of Greeley, noted, “Kids need human support and someone who cares. We are reaching out to families to get them what they need to see if that helps kids get engaged.” Jolee Mann, with Jeffco Public Schools, said they started their family outreach before the school year started so that they could troubleshoot needs for families early on.
Panelists also shared strategies and innovations they are using to track student participation and to support students when participation is in decline. 27J Schools are using Home Visits to connect with families. Jeffco using a centralized form to request intervention when a teacher can’t reach a student or family. Rocky Mountain Prep is reframing staff training around attendance to center on relationship and engagement.
The robust conversation certainly highlighted a central guiding principle- Relationships with students and families are the key to supporting student engagement this year. Desiree Quintanilla pointed out that she hopes this continues beyond COVID saying, “I hope this is not just a COVID thing and that this level of communications with families continues in the future”.
Stand for Children has identified evidence-based actions school districts can take to keep the academic success and emotional well-being of students at the forefront as decisions are made ahead of the incoming academic year. Read our guide to Preventing a Lost School Year.